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Fletcher On Verge Of Consecutive Games Milestone

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London Fletcher is an iron man – in more ways than one.

He is tough, of course. He never shies away from contact as the Redskins' tackling leader the last four seasons.

And his durability is matched by few. He is always there, right in the middle of the Redskins' defense.

On Sunday in Detroit, Fletcher will play in his 200th consecutive game, a remarkable milestone.

Among active players, only Minnesota's Brett Favre has played in more consecutive games than Fletcher. And Favre's 293 consecutive games streak could be in jeopardy this week due to a stress fracture in his ankle.

Fletcher's durability – and availability – has made him one of the most respected figures in the NFL.

He has never missed a game in his 13-year career.

"It's just something that I do," he said. "I've been blessed with a fair amount of toughness, I would say. I love the physical part of playing football. And really I just don't want to let my teammates down. I don't want to imagine not being out there with them, battling."

Head coach Mike Shanahan has coached Fletcher for just seven regular season games and he marvels at how the 35-year-old middle linebacker stays prepared.

"If you have a London Fletcher on your team, you're in pretty good shape as far as a football coach," Shanahan said. "He is a natural leader, he is a worker. He puts all the responsibility for performing on himself. He prepares better than anyone I've been around.

"It's really a compliment to him and his conditioning to know what he has done over the last 200 games to play at his level and be consistent."

Fletcher's streak extends to starts as well.

He is fourth in the NFL among active players with 158 consecutive starts heading into the Detroit game. Favre is first with 291, Indianapolis's Peyton Manning is second at 198 and Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber is third at 173.

Fletcher has had some close calls in terms of missing games. In 2008, he said he suffered a "significant" foot sprain and was in a walking boot as the team practiced for its next game against the New York Giants.

Fletcher was able to gut it out. He not only started against the Giants, but he also led the defense with 14 tackles.

Fletcher's football career began in the Cleveland suburbs at John Carroll University, the same college that has produced Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.

Fletcher had originally attended St. Francis (Pa.) to play basketball and then transferred to John Carroll to pursue football. He went on to finish fourth in school history with 386 tackles and was named Division III Linebacker of the Year as a senior.

Even in college, it was evident that Fletcher excelled at getting in position to make tackles.

Fletcher entered the joined the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted rookie in 1998 and earned a starting job as middle linebacker on a team that would win Super Bowl XXXIV.

Fletcher moved on to Buffalo in 2002 and he led the Bills in tackles every year, including a career-high 209 in 2002.

The Redskins, looking to solidify the middle linebacker position, moved quickly to sign Fletcher when he was a free agent again in 2007.

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Each of his defensive coordinators the last four years in Washington – Gregg Williams, Greg Blache and Jim Haslett – have relied on him to be a leader on and off the field and to set the tone for the defense.

"This guy is special to me," Haslett said. "He is the most incredible guy on defense I've ever been around, in terms of understanding the game, taking it from the classroom to the field, knowing plays, knowing what's coming next. He has everything you're looking for in a middle linebacker."

During his tenure in Washington, Fletcher has experienced his share of ups and downs, though.

He helped guide the team to a Wild Card playoff berth after the tragic death of Sean Taylor in 2007. He was a team captain in 2008-09 but the Redskins posted a disappointing 12-20 record in that span.

He earned a measure of satisfaction after last season when he was finally named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

This year, Fletcher continues to set goals for himself even with the Pro Bowl accolade.

He continues to adjust to the Redskins' new 3-4 base defense, a scheme that he has not played before until this year.

"It's really about constantly challenging yourself to improve each and every day, in practice and in the meeting rooms," he said. "I want to be on top of my calls, and I always want to improve from a technique standpoint.

"Even though I've been in the league 13 seasons, there are still things I can improve on. If I improve individually, then I think it helps the team. It helps the team reach our goal, which is the Super Bowl."

Fletcher welcomed the hiring of Shanahan last January, saying that the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach would bring professionalism and accountability to the organization.

"That's the way it should be in the NFL," Fletcher said. "The teams that I've been on that have won, that's the way it's done. I've embraced everything Coach Shanahan has done in terms of how he runs this football team."

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